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The Runelords: The Sum Of All Men (The Runelords, Book 1) Hardcover – July 1, 1998
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Runelords excels because this novel idea is not mere window dressing--Farland uses it to explore fundamental questions of life and morality. The story's hero, the young Runelord Gaborn, struggles to define his role in this "shameful economy" while keeping his commitments to himself, to his people, to the woman he loves, and to the earth itself. We end up asking ourselves the same questions: Should you choose your friends based on insight or virtue? Is it better to be just or good? Competent fantasy lets you escape to adventure in faraway lands, but exceptional fantasy makes sure you have something to think about when you get back. Runelords accomplishes the latter. --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Publisher : Tor Books : Tom Doherty Associates; 1st edition (July 1, 1998)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 479 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0312866534
- ISBN-13 : 978-0312866532
- Item Weight : 1.85 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 1.75 x 9.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #223,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Whatever it was that distracted me at the time, I've found Wolverton, or Dave Farland as he goes by for his fantasy novels (and which name I'll use from here on out since this is a fantasy novel), and I feel like I've discovered some kind of not-so-hidden local restaurant that, for whatever reason, no one ever told me had amazing sandwiches. And everyday, right about the same time, I can't help but want to trek back over to try a new sandwich.
Farland is just like that. I read On My Way to Paradise, and loved it, but I couldn't help but ask: was it a one-hit wonder? Since it had been a while since I'd read any epic fantasy, I decided to pick up The Sum of All Men. I finished the late-Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series back in January, and I hadn't touched the genre since. Books in epic fantasy tend to be door stoppers, and it takes some commitment to pick up a new series (just ask George R.R. Martin fans who have endure not only long periods of time between installments in his Song of Fire and Ice series, but the very real possibility that the good guys just won't win in the end...or even in the middle, for that matter. But I digress). After putting it off to finish one thing and another, I finally dug in, started reading, and soon found myself lost between the pages.
A lot of reviewers and readers will note that The Sum of All Men breaks new ground, manages to come up with a magic system that is fresh and original, and it's true. However, this isn't what I liked so much about The Sum of All Men, though it's clearly a clever system of magic. On the contrary, for me the magic system, something of a "shameful economy," as I think one of the characters calls it, creates conflicts and conundrums for Farland's protagonists while empowering their enemies. No, it isn't the magic that I find so interesting, though clever it may be, nor the fantastical creatures, bloody battles, or imaginative world. It's all very fascinating and contributory to a great tale, but clever ideas are a dime a dozen in fantasy.
Rather, what I like is Farland's writing and the way his characters resonate with me. Because although set in a land that has more in common with medieval Europe and crusade era Arabia, the characters face quandaries and decisions and complex relationships that are human and natural and believable. They act like real people, not pawns of a writer's pen, and whether it is the power of the story, the deft and gentle use of symbolism, or the interweaving of myth, Joseph Campbell-style, by the time I had finished The Sum of All Men I felt as much for the characters as I might for people I really know.
I even sympathized with the apparent villain. Yes, he was "the bad guy," but it wasn't so black and white why he was the villain. Not unlike On My Way to Paradise, it was in the grey and difficult to see decisions that made the characters live on the page.
Ok, I know. It's silly to care about the fictional, ink on paper people that fill a novel. And there are a lot of good books out there that can make readers feel, so to speak. But what is good reading but a way to understand and see through the eyes of another for a while? It doesn't matter whether it's on a ship hurtling through space between the planets, a farmer trying to eek out a subsistence on a Depression era farm, or a bevy of sisters trying to catch the eye of the newly wealthy, and very handsome, Mr. Darcy: when a book can make you feel, believe in the imaginary characters, it's worth the time and it's worth finding more of it.
Farland is, for me, a newly discovered secret, and I can't wait to share the secret with others, not to mention read more. I've got his Nightingale, one of his more recent books, waiting next to the bed, and I've just put in an order from Amazon for Brotherhood of the Wolf, and I can't wait to start both.
A Dark Lord tries to unite the kingdoms through violence in order to defend its border against a rival nation. The story begins with the Earth King Festival in Sylvarresta. By now, everyone knows that you just can't have a festival with a Dark Lord around. It always gets ruined. After an assassin is discovered, the Dark Lord's plot begins to unfold and the people must take ACTION!
The characters are a mixed bag. They all do their part. For some, their motivations are clear, but others just seem to fill in the blanks. Most of the characters don't have any emotions and when they do, they change from one extreme to the other. One character actually goes from deranged and suicidal to jovial in 10 seconds because another character performed an impression of an eccentric Marquis. I know what you're thinking, "That must have been some impression..." but it wasn't even that good. It's really hard to get motivated to root for the characters because none of them act like real people. Not even those lunatics on reality shows.
You can overlook this if you just want epic fantasy ACTION!
The World itself is a medieval realm with castles, horses, knights, creatures, and wizards. The book features an interesting magic system where Runelords can steal the attributes of others through a ritual. If they take one's strength, they are twice as strong, and the donor is nearly bedridden. They can take speed, metabolism, beauty, stamina, voice, sight, hearing... etc... If the donor is killed, the Runelord loses that bonus. If the Runelord is killed, the donor gets their abilities back. As the book goes on, the rules get a bit more interesting and complex. The magic system is original and fun. The creatures of `Runelords' are refreshingly unique. (No Orcs) Overall, the world is creative, but it doesn't really come to life because the writing style is so simplistic.
Which is good because you don't have to think too hard if you want ACTION!
The style is very simple and lacks the poetic depth of a Tolkien or a Jordan. If you just want simple descriptions instead of paragraphs of densely verbose details so you can get to the action, then this works in your favor. The Pacing is a bit off, but for the most part, it's not bad. The descriptions are also somewhat anachronistic. One magically aided character "runs 140 miles per hour" and they attacked the casle at "10 O' clock." Yet nobody has a radar gun, or a watch... However, this is very easy to visualize and that may work in your favor because you don't have to decipher alien calendars, standards of measurements, or units of time. You won't have to read too much to get to the ACTION!
There are some exciting action scenes and some creative battle tactics. However, many of the resolutions to the battles are sudden and pointless. If you think too hard, the ACTION gets ruined.
Don't think too hard.
The Book takes place over 5 days, which completely ludicrous. Characters walk hundreds of miles and fight in battles. Everyone falls madly in love with people that they just met. Most of the action is pointless. There are inconsistencies with powers. The more you think about this book, the more you're going to get a headache... So don't think too hard.
There's violence and some love making, but it's not excessive. This book would be ok for teens.
This is an average book. If you really want a simple Dark Lord Story with Epic Action and can overlook a lot of errors, then you can enjoy this! It's easy to read and there are some good scenes.
If dangling prepositions, anachronistic descriptions, characters who are all over the place emotionally, and pointless events bother you, then you should skip this book altogether.
Personally, I think the only thing that I'm going to remember about this book three weeks from now is the magic system and some of the ACTION!
R.I.P. to an outstanding writer.
Top reviews from other countries
Although the story is fairly standard fantasy stuff there are two things that really stand out;
1) The magic system, whereby people can be empowered by taking enhancements from people - making the person recieving the the enhancement more powerful but leaving the donor a wreck. At times this can be quite horrific or saddenning, depending on the situation, whether the enhancement is taken by force or freely given and as a plot device it is really well used.
2) The description of the world. Right from the very first page this land jumps off the page. It feels real and alive. For me, this makes a story all the more enjoyable.
All in all, quality storytelling and characterisation, set in a believable land - It took me a while to start this series but I'm really glad I did.
Been a few years since I first read it but the concept stayed with me. Great read second time round.